Tuesday 31 July 2007


While in Amsterdam recently, we visited the Van Gogh Museum and took the obligatory look at one of the several Sunflower paintings made by Vincent in 1888.

It's famous, of course --- iconic no less.

And yet, as often happens when one really thinks about those paintings that have become behemoths of art history, the Sunflowers is a puzzle: brilliant shades of gold, bronze and copper, of course; but the flowers themselves - so amazing when seen in their full glory in the natural world - are here depicted as being overblown and running to seed.

If I was to choose between this celebrated picture of what is, basically, a vase of flowers that are either dead or dying and Vince's slightly less famous (but, to my mind, infinitely more beautiful) painting of Irises, with its blooms tumbling across the canvas in a vibrant and exquisite sense of Life...

...then I think I know which floral arrangement would pass reasonable muster with Interflora and which would pretty quickly find its way onto the compost heap!

Monday 30 July 2007





Guest Pear-Diver: MARK LEE

1. Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on
the same night.

2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race
has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word
would be "meetings".

3. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness."

4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost never
want you to share yours with them.

5. And when God, who created the entire universe with all of its glories, decides to deliver a message to humanity, He WILL NOT use, as His messenger, a person on satellite TV with a bad hairstyle.

Sunday 29 July 2007


Why do I never have a camera with me when I really need it? Waiting in a chemist shop the other day for a prescription to be filed, I noticed a rack of baby products including a toddler's loo-seat designed to conveniently fit over a conventional lavatory pan, thus preventing the little 'un from being flushed away...

Guess the name of the company manufacturing this undoubtedly useful product?


Saturday 28 July 2007


Did I mention how very thoughtful and helpful the Dutch people are?

Take our hotel room in Amsterdam, for example: if, on entering the room, you felt in any doubt as to the exact location of the BED - or indeed were exhibiting any degree of uncertainty as to which was the head and which the bottom - all one had to do was aim for the...


Similarly, when desiring to leave the room, any anxiety concerning the route to the DOOR was instantly settled with reference to the helpful directions woven into the carpet at the foot of the bed!

Friday 27 July 2007


As the media is busily noting, 40 years ago, today, homosexuality was finally decriminalised - although then only in England and Wales and for men over the age of 21 and in private. Gayness may have no longer been a crime but it was something to be strictly kept behind closed doors - in fact, in the closet.

At the time I had just turned 18 and was still fighting down the belief/fear that I was gay. Even when, three years later, I was legally old enough to indulge in same-sex activities (and by which time I had escaped the straight-jacket of a heterosexual relationship that was hurtling towards marriage and, probably, subsequent disaster) gay men were still subject to victimisation, prejudice, violence, blackmail, harassment and public ignominy.

Although I read nowadays that some men who lived the gay life in those dark, depressing days, claim to yearn for the lost thrills of plucking forbidden fruit, I for one have no fond memories of such times...

For me, any excitement and adrenaline rush resulting from dangerous liaisons was always outranked by those fumbled, furtive, seedy encounters that did little more than relieve the animal urge while, at the same time, reinforcing the stigmatised belief that my sexual orientation was unnatural, shameful and dirty.

I look back on nights of crying myself to sleep, of praying for a miracle and, even - being, at that time, a devout Christian - seeking "healing"...

I painfully recall being mugged and robbed, blackmailed and, on one occasion, humiliated in court by a magistrate who said that he hoped the £25 fine he handed down to me (a lot of money thirty-five years ago) would serve as a lesson both to me and to "other detestables of your sort". I still shudder as I remember the days of waiting to see if my criminal activity would be reported in the local newspaper and I would lose my job, disgrace my parents, alienate my friends...

The worst effect of living in the shadows was that it took me a long time to discover the joys and pleasures of gay love as opposed to the temporary thrill and gratification of gay sex.

I am not sure it will ever be truly easy to be gay - however glad we may say we are about it! It is, after all, rather like the salmon swimming upstream against the flow of the river; but I thank God (despite the fact that His Church is the final - and eternal - bastion of homophobia) that today's generation of gay men and women are able to live and love in what, compared with How Things Were 40 years ago, is an Enlightened Age...

Thursday 26 July 2007


As you probably know, I am a passionate lover of Venice...

Imagine then, my surprise, when I read a speech made by Venice's Mayor Cacciari at a recent conference at Lake Garda in which he made some remarkable - well, extraodinary - suggestions about his city...
Please say that Venice smells, that merchants are expensive; please do adverse publicity. In Venice, we have to thin crowds, not attract them.

The tourists who arrive every year already number 20,000,000, and we are preparing for the Chinese tourist boom, which is a frightening prospect. In China, new tourist agencies have been opened by the dozen, and everyone includes tours to Venice.

The municipality doesn't get any benefit from this surge, and there are absurd costs for controlling trash and providing transportation. Tourism, beyond certain levels, becomes dangerous.

So, there you have it --- don't go to Venice!


Well, I guess Mayor Cacciari knows what he's doing, but whilst he may indeed be right in saying "tourism, beyond certain levels, becomes dangerous", he ought not to forget that tourism is also the life-blood of a city that no longer has any role to play in the affairs of the world other than as a place of beauty and inspiration and that without those problematical tourist Euros, Venice would finally die and sink into the lagoon...

[Images © Brian Sibley and David Weeks, 2007]

Wednesday 25 July 2007


One man's monopoly is another man's bargain and this one awaits you and your AmEx Platinum card in London's Burlington Arcade...

Mind you, that is a snip compared with a Monopoly set made by Alfred Dunhill - with gold houses and silver hotels - that sold for $25,000.

Anyway, if your old Monopoly set is looking a bit tired (the money and cards getting dog-eared, the boot lost and the top hat tarnished) but you just don't happen to have £775 to spare, well there are alternatives...

The Disney Monopoly Set: make money with Mickey...

The Spiderman 3 Monopoly set: spend, spend, spend with Spidey...

And for the very young 'uns: the SpongBob Square Pants edition...

Er... Maybe somebody at Monopoly Inc ought to go straight to JAIL!

Monopoly Michael Caineisms
("Not a Lot of People Know That"):

* General Mills in the USA marketed a Limited Edition Monopoly Cereal featuring, "crispy, sweetened whole wheat and rice cereal pieces imprinted with the Monopoly game's famed game pieces along with marshmallow bits resembling Monopoly property cards." Yuck!

According to Steve Vekich (Marketing Manager for Promotional Cereals at General Mills): "The game Monopoly is synonymous with family fun. We knew Monopoly cereal was a winning idea in our continuing effort to bring new and exciting limited edition products to the cereal aisle." Crikey!

* The top-hatted gent on the Monopoly logo is known as Mr Monopoly but this is a name he only acquired in 1999 (apparently "in honour of the [upcoming] new millenium"); prior to that he was called Rich Uncle Pennybags, a name he went under on a companion game marketed in 1946.

According to the Monopoly Companion (1988) his full name is Millburn Pennybags. The same volume revealed that the policeman is named Officer Edgar Mallory and the crook behind bars goes by the moniker Jake the Jailbird!

Tuesday 24 July 2007


Singing 'Onward Christian Soldiers', as I told you the other week, is, apparently, the ideal way to time a perfect boiled egg. But as Qenny commented at the time, not everyone feels comfortable with such blatantly militant - and military - imagery

As I pointed out, the image of Christians being an army of God began early in Church History with [Saint] Paul's letter to the followers in Ephesus, to whom he wrote...
Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints....

Ephesians 6:10-18
'Onward Christian Soldiers' and other hymns like 'Fight the Good Fight' and John Bunyan's 'He Who Would Valiant Be' all draw their inspiration from this piece of New Testament scripture.

So to do a zealous organisation called Armor of God whose website my friend Jen ran across the other day. These good folk are currently selling clothing with what Jen rightly describes as The Ultimate Designer Label --- The Whole Armor of God Pajama set...

The Armor of of PJs are intended to "help your children to depend on God to protect them from their fears, doubts, and uncertainties at night so their sleep can be restful and peaceful."

Which might not be so easy when you've got to cope with a sheild and helmet...

Maybe it would be better to wait for -- COMING SOON! -- 'Armor of God Blankets 'or the Anna & Samuel Armor of God Pajama American Boy and Girl Dolls...

Just $9.95 plus shipping and also available (at no extra cost) as African-American Boy and Girl dolls.

[St] Paul has been responsible for a great many things in the History of the World, but with all due respect to the old boy, I do think this is one of the tackier bi-products of his ministry.

PS: Incidentally, it is probably a sexist thing, but why is the girl-doll shod with shoes [of PEACE] that have LACES, while the boy-doll only wears SLIP-ONS??

Monday 23 July 2007


As regular readers of this blog will know there are - very occasionally - passing references to gentlemen in underwear (sometimes accompanied by illustrations) that invariable --- and inexplicably --- elicit extreme responses from various readers of a nervous disposition!

For that reason, I have hesitated (for several months!) to post a story sent to me by Jen about the Swedish bike company Kronan launching a line in underwear for men and women...

If the advertisements are anything to go by, these items are prefect for wearing (without anything else) when getting one's leg over a Kronan bike...

I have only decided to post this imformation now as a result of a recent news story that offers a whole new understanding to the cultural influence and historic significance of the undergarment.

Last week, the Canadian newspaper Globe & Mail ran the folowing report:

From rags to reading

Discarded medieval underpants rank alongside the invention of printing in the spread of literacy, says historian

Agence France-Presse
July 13, 2007

LONDON -- Underwear underpins the spread of Western culture, with discarded underpants ranking alongside the invention of printing in the spread of literacy, according to a medieval historian.

Delegates at the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds, northern England, were told this week that social migration from rural to urban areas in the 13th century brought with it changes in attire.

Whereas rough and ready peasants thought little of wearing nothing under their smocks, the practice became frowned upon in the burgeoning towns and cities, leading to a run on undergarments.

And when the underwear was worn out, it provided a steady supply of material used by papermakers to make books.

"The development of literacy was certainly helped by the introduction of paper, which was made from rags," said Marco Mostert of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who was one of the conference organizers. "These rags came from discarded clothes, which cost much less than the very expensive parchment which was previously used for books. In the 13th century, so it is thought, as more people moved into urban centres, the use of underwear increased - which caused an increase in the number of rags available for paper-making."

The invention of the movable-type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in the mid-15th century is generally credited with spreading learning. Before that, books were hand-written.

But Dr. Mostert said that although literacy did not become widespread until the 19th century, it was more common in the Middle Ages than many believe because of cheap paper made from rags.
"Although the aim of producing a 100-per-cent literate population didn't occur before the 19th century, after about 1100 the need for literacy grew steadily, and from about 1200 ... the number of literates increased dramatically along with the number of schools in urban areas," he said.

Popular reading at the time was the Bible, as well as religious poetry. Histories of Roman emperors and English kings were also bestsellers.
All of which obviously explains why, today, some people are wearing underwear made out of books!

Sunday 22 July 2007





The following five pearls have been strung together by GILL, who says that some "are more seriously intended than others!"

You decide which is what...

1. My body is not a dustbin.

2. A little of what you fancy is never enough.

3. Nobody is indispensable - not even me.

4. The only two things that matter in life are courage and kindness.

5. A budget represents maximum possible outgoings, it is not a spending target.

Saturday 21 July 2007


Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - Fun!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Zzzzzzzzzzzz!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At the World's End - Passed...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Attacked by Mad - EXCELLENT!

Friday 20 July 2007


I'm just back from enjoying my birthday treat from David: a couple of days in Amsterdam...

Aside from being immortalised in Ronnie Hilton's 1965 hit, 'A Windmill in Old Amsterdam' ("A little mouse with clogs on! Well, I declare! Going clip-clippety-clop on the stair...") the city known as "The Venice of the North" is, it turns out, an easy-going place of great charm, full of elegant bridges...

...and an amazing number of bikes!

As for the Dutch, they are a delightful people: generous to a fault...

Painfully honest...

Highly tolerant - even, apparently, of someone who paints lines on the road whilst obviously stoned!

Possessing a great sense of humour, evidenced by selling wooden tulips...

...fluffy clog-shaped slippers in a cow-hide animal print...

...and, at Schiphol airport, adding a tiny embellishment to the urinals in the gents' loos in the hope of encouraging better aim and less spillage!

Thursday 19 July 2007


Here's a few more funny/clever/smart-ass advertisements as an antidote to the usual run-of-the-mill boring billboards and bus-sides.

Firstly, a Nicotinell ad that I'm surprised isn't yet featured on the Mayor of (SMOKEFREE) London's buses...

On the subject of cleaning up your act, here's how Proctor & Gamble advertised their obviously highly efficient Mr Clean products on a New York street...

Here's one way to advertise Snickers without actually using the name...

And even if you never eat McDonalds, a sundial might come in handy - if only to tell that it's time NOT to eat your next Big Mac and Fries...

And finally --- for now --- here's how they turned one of New York City's famous permanently-steaming manholes into an ad for Folgers Coffee...

Monday 16 July 2007


I'm in a coffee shop and the girl behind the counter (for whom English is not her first language) hands me my Americano and skinny cherry muffin and, indicating the dispenser of paper napkins, asks: "You wish for NAPPIES, yes?"

There will be no Sibley blogs for the next two days.

Sunday 15 July 2007


The Haiku is a Japanese verse form of strictly disciplined construction.

Here are a few haikus for those of us who live in daily fear of the computer error...

Something you entered
transcended parameters.
So much is unknown.

Three things are certain:

Death, taxes, and lost data.

Guess which has occurred.

There is a chasm

of carbon and silicon

the software can't bridge.

With searching comes loss

and the presence of absence:

"My Novel" not found.

The code was willing,

It considered your request,

But the chips were weak.

A file that big?

It might be very useful.

But now it is gone.

Login incorrect.

Only perfect spellers may

enter this system.

Seeing my great fault

Through darkening blue windows

I begin again.

The Web site you seek

cannot be located but

endless others exist

Windows NT crashed.

I am the Blue Screen of Death.

No one hears your screams.

Chaos reigns within.

Reflect, repent, and reboot.

Order shall return.

ABORTED effort:

Close all that you have.

You ask way too much.

A crash reduces

your expensive computer

to a simple stone.

First snow, then silence.

This thousand dollar screen
so beautifully.

To have no errors

Would be life without meaning

No struggle, no joy.

And my personal favourite...

You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

For more Haiku Error Messages (and for the names of the poets whose work is sampled above), visit 21st: the culture of technology, the technology of culture.

Saturday 14 July 2007


"After all," said Eeyore, "what are birthdays? Here to-day and gone to-morrow..."

What indeed...?

[Image: E H Shepard]

Friday 13 July 2007


I would never - that is NEVER - go bungee-jumping, skydiving or rock-climbing. But yesterday, courtesy of the NHS, I had a stress echocardiogram to check out my heart that was probably the equivalent to doing all three in quick succession.

This involves being hooked up to machines that monitor your blood pressure and heart rate while a drug called dobutamine is pumped into your arm via an intravenous drip. As the dosage increases so does the heart beat until it is racing and jumping about in your chest like something out of a Warner Brothers cartoon.

Then, once it is going like the clappers and you are fighting for breath and drenched in sweat and your mouth is dry and your focus is going and your head is spinning, the doctor begins ramming a scanner against your rib cage until - from the pain - you are convinced that you now have at least one broken rib, possibly more. This then goes on doing for the longest 15 minutes in the world...

Just before they begin this torture the team reassuring advise you that only one in 10,000 people suffer cardiac arrest during the test. Too late, you realise that you forgot to ask how near they are to having carried out 10,000 of these tests!

Well it was an experience - probably rather like having a sustained orgasm in middle of a 7.9 earthquake. Frankly, if I had a choice - knowing what I now know - I think I'd opt for the bungee-jump and see whether my heart was still beating when I reached the end of the elastic...

Thursday 12 July 2007


I have something of a phobia about 'label clothing'... I do understand that sporting an A & F t-shirt or a D & G belt or displaying the waistband of your Calvin Klein underpants is about wearing 'fashion uniform', but it always seems crazy to me to have paid over the odds for label-gear in order to be a walking advertisement. How come THEY don't pay YOU?!

Howsoever, Grumpy-Old-Git rant over --- I keep trying to remember that my friend Gill told me the other day that I was probably indulging in a few too many GOG rants on this blog! --- I have to say that I quite like the following highly personalised product placements.

For example, forget your Versace carrier-bags, these make a real statement...

Yes, that FedEx package really is ON his t-shirt...

And I've included this one for its sheer bare-faced cheek...

Wednesday 11 July 2007





1. Gaffer tape is like "The Force." It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together.

2. Don't be irreplaceable. If you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.

3. Generally speaking, you aren't learning much when your lips are moving.

4. A closed mouth gathers no foot.

5. Never miss a good chance to SHUT UP!

A number of regular raeders have started adding their own "pearls" which I shall be posting in further instalments from time to time - so, if you have favourite saws or sayings - sound or silly - please join the happy throng and send them in...